Dr. Ian Fry, the first Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change, visited the Philippines to study how climate change affects the enjoyment of human rights.
This task was mandated through UN Human Rights Council’s resolution 48/14 in relation to their resolution 48/13 recognizing that a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is a human right.
To conclude his visit, SR Fry released a statement detailing his accounts and findings in the Philippines.
He mentioned he chose to visit our country because we are known to suffer (constantly and harshly) the impacts of climate change.
However, in chronicling the way Filipinos experience climate change and the environment, he also inevitably chronicles our constant struggle and fight for a healthy environment.
Under the thematic issues of his statement, he specifically investigated the treatment of environmental and human rights defenders.
The most recent Global Witness report ranks the Philippines as the deadliest country in Asia for land and environmental defenders for the ninth year.
Nineteen EHRDs were killed in the Philippines in 2021.
Fry in his statement says in the past three years alone, 75 EHRDs were extrajudicially killed in our country.
He recounted how civil society organizations fought for their communities’ right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment–exactly his mandate.
The statement also asserted that all CSOs he spoke with has had a member who was harassed, abducted, imprisoned, or even killed.
This was impossible to detail without mentioning the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) which, according to the Special Rapporteur, “have systematically ‘red tagged’ environmental human rights defenders and Indigenous Peoples.”
He confirms “[t]his is a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression and for some, their right to life.”
EHRDs are impossible to discuss without speaking of the indigenous peoples and the violation of their human and IP rights.
Fry talks about the displacement of our local IPs from their ancestral lands because of the development of dams and mines.
The military have also been doing aerial bombings in their ancestral lands.
Particularly, Fry’s statement zeroes in on the Tumandok Massacre from 2020.
The police raided Tumandok villages to search for alleged New People’s Army members.
In this raid, nine Tumandok leaders were killed who, according to Karapatan, have been previously red-tagged as well.
These leaders have been fighting against the construction of the Jalaur Mega Dam Project which would affect their land.
Through this incident, Fry discusses the allegations against the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples as well; they have been accused of feeding information to the NTF-ELCAC, tagging people as terrorists.
This is in addition to their controversy that they have been forcing IPs to sign Free, Prior Informed Consent Agreements to give dams and mines the right to operate in their land.
Fry’s report does not shy away from showing that the violence against EHRDs are systemic in the Philippines.
Government institutions tend to band together to harass, abduct, harm, and kill EHRDs.
With this, the Special Rapporteur gives a set of recommendations for the Philippine government.
Some of them being the revocation of the misused Anti-Terrorism Act, the enactment of the Human Rights Defenders Bill, reparations for victims of human rights violations, the disbandment and independent investigation of the NTF-ELCAC, review of cases against EHRDs who are persecuted because of the military, and the reformation of the NCIP.
In a statement from Karapatan, they commend Fry’s exit statement for these recommendations. I concur.
These are good findings and excellent recommendations.
Indeed, this statement is compendious as it laid down the environmental situation of the Philippines in relation to climate change while not ignoring the circumstances and experiences of the EHRDs who tirelessly fight for the people’s right to a clean, sustainable, and healthy environment.
Fry, whom I have known for 30 years in the climate negotiations, clearly understands the Philippines. As I have seen him time and again in three decades of advocating climate justice, Fry always is fair, practical, and wise.
Let’s heed his advice.
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